Today Norco officially announced one of the worst-kept secrets of 2024 transfer season: Greg Minnaar is joining Norco Factory Racing. Seeing the G.O.A.T. on a Canadian team is, obviously, a thrilling start to the year for Canadian fans. But is signing Minnaar actually a good idea for Norco? That is less clear.
We are huge Greg Minnaar fans. It is thrilling and, for those of us over, say, 25, more than a little inspiring watching the 42-year-old stay competitive at the World Cup level while racing against riders literally half his age.
It is also exciting that Norco appears to be closer to releasing its wild prototype downhill bike. Why else would the brand start it’s 60th year by bring in a star like Minnaar?
But bringing in an established veteran to race a new bike is still very much a gamble. Norco is already years into the development of this DH bike, but things still have a way of going wrong with new bikes. If there’s anything wrong with the new rig, whether its the team version or a production version, there will now be a huge spotlight on those problems. Even if there’s no problem with the bike, if Minnaar isn’t able to get the results he used to, who are fans (i.e. potential customers) going to blame? A well established pro or an unproven bike?
There is two ways to frame this. Either Norco is wildly confident that its new bike is a winner or, on the other hand, they’re gambling big. Hopefully, for fans of the brand here in Canada, it is the former. It would be amazing to see Norco put a Canadian bike on the top of the podium again, as Stevie Smith did for Devinci. And as Minnaar’s new teammate, Gracey Hemstreet, did with the pre-prototype Range team conversion as a junior.
There’s also an argument that, even if Minnaar’s season doesn’t go well, the sales that follow from his fans might be worth the investment.
The Source: A G.O.A.T. and his kids
Minnaar isn’t joining Norco just to race and develop the new downhill bike. He’s also being tapped to mentor his Norco Factory Team teammates, Gracey Hemstreet and Lucas Cruz and to helm something called “The Source,” the brand’s new development program.
This should be a huge opportunity for Cruz and Hemstreet and, in Norco’s PR, they are rightly excited about it.
“What an honour it is…